Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files: Sleeping giant Bernard Tomic just needs the right support
Wednesday 26 June 2013
Bernard Tomic attracts plenty of attention for what goes on off the court but get this guy on to the grass and I tell you here is a kid waiting to do something special. Tomic, in terms of ability, has what it takes but he needs to have the support in place to get him out on to the court in the best shape to win tennis matches.
I know young Tomic very well and he is a lovely young man. He has spent some time over at the academy in Florida and was back there earlier this year with his dad, John. I get on with John. He told me that I am one of the few people that Bernard likes to have around and will listen to and trust the information. Now I don't imagine Mr Tomic says that about too many people!
It's a touchy subject, what is going on with his dad, and I understand why Wimbledon can't let him in. We will just have to wait and see what happens with him but it is an old issue in the sport: what role should the parent play?
I have seen plenty come and go through the academy over the years. And I have known some great ones around the game – old Granma Connors, Jimmy's mother Gloria, was one, a real pillar for her boy. The Chang family were very successful in looking after Michael and there was nobody nicer than Chris Evert's dad, Jimmy. And, of course, there are the Williams. You know in all the years I have had dealings with them I never once heard Richard raise his voice.
But I reckon those are the exceptions – having mum and dad too closely involved is not the most productive route to success. Too close a relationship in terms of sport more often than not proves a negative. Sure, they can be around, and having them there can be important as part of the team that surrounds a player – the guy on the other side of the net, James Blake, is a good example of that. But leave the rest to the coach and player – and I am not a big fan of fathers being coaches either. If a parent is a coach and there are other children in the family, what happens? What if the dad has a job? How does it work?
There is one simple thing here. If a player is split between a parent and a coach then there will only be losers and no one will lose more than the kid.
But let's get back on to the court and Tomic. He is a player. Blake, with his movement and consistency, will work him but Tomic is not far from the big breakthrough. Winning that first-round five-setter against Sam Querry was important for him. I know he is angry about his dad not being let in but if he can concentrate on the court then he can go far.
I call him the sleeping giant. He looks dozy and you never quite know what to expect but then – wham! – his opponent is lulled and Tomic bites him on the a***. I love watching this guy. He can fool you into thinking there is nothing there but he has everything, the serve, the groundies. And his movement – this is classic Tomic. You think he is a slow mover and all of a sudden, whoosh, he's there.
If he can sort out what is going on off the court he can fly high, touch the stars. He is no longer the new kid on the block, he has been a pro since 2008, but is still only 20. According to the ages now he still has three, four years to mature. I just hope whatever is taking place off the court, his private life, including his support team, comes together. He has all the ability not just to be a good player, top 20 say, but to be a top player on the tour, single figures and counting.
The big match: Blake v Tomic
J Blake/B Tomic
American Nationality Australian
33 Age 20
Westport, US Residence Monte Carlo
Right-handed Plays Left-handed
6ft 1in Height 6ft 5in
87 World ranking 59
10 Career titles 1
$7.79m Prize-money $1.55m
8-10 Wimbledon record (W-L)5-3
R3 Wimbledon best QF (2006, '07)(2011)
0 Head-to-head 0
Nick's prediction Tomic in three
Coaching report: Holy cow! I never knew Michelle could shock Maria
Of all the holy cows in all the holy herds in the whole of the goddamn world, who saw that one coming? Now I have known Michelle Larcher de Brito since she was 12 and turned up at my academy, and I never thought she had it in her to do what she did against Maria Sharapova.
Boy did she turn up, and that last game, as it swung back and forth, what a nerve. Six times the score stood at deuce and each time Michelle did what she had to. And then five match points. It would not have surprised me to see a player of Michelle's standing at 131 in the world, and age, just 20, crash and burn having failed to convert four of them. If Maria had won that last game, and she pulled out all the big shots, it would have been a different result.
I don't know about the beef Maria had with the surface, whether it is any worse than years gone by, but grass is grass and there are times when it will be slippy. You have to deal with it.
Because it is tough to change direction on grass because it can be slippy, looking to direct the ball behind your opponent is an effective strategy, and Michelle used it well.
I always liked her, so polite – she was with us for about five years before her father took her off to coach her on her own. She has not made the progress she might have, which is disappointing because she has solid skills, is quick and brave – as she showed today. Good on her.
Andy Murray looked good. It was not much of a challenge for him but it is his footwork that is so impressive. It helps make him such a threat on grass.
My week at Wimbledon: Name the sport – I could turn out winners
I spent a bit of time chatting with Toni Minichiello, the guy who coached Jessica Ennis to that brilliant Olympic gold, here on Tuesday night. He had come down to take in some tennis. Interesting man and a guy who obviously has what it takes. He said that he tries to get some of his knowledge from other coaches – but, to some extent, that way is not for me.
I do keep an eye on what other sports are doing over nutrition and physical training, sure I do, but I never look at what other tennis coaches are doing. Each coach has their own style and teaching techniques and each to their own. I am guided purely by the player in front of me. What are their needs? You follow what the student needs.
But let me give you my take on sports coaching. I believe I could take your cricket – boy, I must get down to a game one day when I'm over here; I could take your rugby and I could be the coach.
First, you surround yourself with staff that know the game. If I'm head coach I'm not dealing with techniques, my part is how to deal with the mind; how could I get each guy in the team to perform. I bet I would have a winning team on my hands once I was done.
I could do that with any sport. Surround myself with the staff but leave the motivation to me. I can make a person feel special.
Wow, that was a busy day I had. I had five interviews before breakfast – three on the BBC and two on Sky. You can't beat talking tennis and you guys over here say you love the voice. It's born and bred in New York. I have to admit I have spent little time in the old home since I left in 1949, but the voice has stayed true to my roots, man.
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